The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 21, May 22, 2011, Article 4

William H. McDonald, 1924-2011

As we mark the happy occasion of Eric Newman's 100th birthday, sadly our friends north of the border have lost a numismatic giant, Bill McDonald. The following is posted on the site of the J.D. Ferguson Historical Research Foundation. Our thoughts are with his family and all of our Canadian numismatic friends. -Editor

Wm.H.McDonald It was with a strong feeling of the passing of an era that the death of William H. (Bill) McDonald was announced on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Bill was a huge force in Canadian numismatics, founder of the CPMS (Canadian Paper Money Society), the CMNS (Classical and Medieval Numismatic Society) and the J.D. Ferguson Historical Research Foundation.

Bill, born in Winnipeg in 1924 into a large family, left home to join the Navy in 1943. After the war, Bill left the west for Ottawa and Gwen joined him a year later where they were married in 1950. Bill now began his long career as a banker, eventually joining the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto, the city which remained his much-loved home for the rest of his life.

Bill's career climbed with the explosive growth of the post-war city; he was involved in mortgage writing for the developers of the old Henry Farm for example, which became a fine planned community and the site of the McDonalds' family home.

It was his banking career that first sparked his primary collecting interest: paper money, and specifically banknotes. His collection of these grew to enormous proportions. At one time a display of his collection at the Toronto-Dominion Centre encompassed seventy showcases. In a demonstration of the numismatic adage to buy the book before the coin, Bill put together a collection of books on banking history that filled three walls of his home library. Bill was always interested in the learning aspect of numismatics and to further spread his own commitment to paper money he founded the CPMS and with it, its publication which is still operating today.

The J.D. Ferguson Historical Research Foundation was set up in 1971 by Bill and numismatic friends to support educational activity in the field of numismatics. All funds were tax deductible and kept in perpetuity. The Foundation is a legacy to Bill's progressive and forward thinking as the Foundation has given over $200,000 to numismatic research since its inception. Bill was the founding Chair and continued in that capacity until 1999. He believed so strongly in the Foundation that he gave large donations in his family name to the Foundation over many years

After his retirement from banking, Bill felt the need of another challenge. He turned to a small collection of ancient coins he had bought and put away years before and for information about them developed a friendship with Bruce Brace, the foremost ancient numismatist of his day in Canada. Bruce introduced Bill to the rest of the ancient coin spectrum and suggested he limit himself to one facet of this very wide field. Bill wisely chose the period from 100 BC to AD 100 and for the rest of his collecting career stuck pretty closely to that.

As in the case of paper money, Bill wanted to spread information on his new interest. To this end he founded the Classical and Medieval Numismatic Society, in partnership with Bruce Brace in 1991. This was accompanied by a pair of publications: the annual Picus and the quarterly newsletter Anvil. In 2000 these two publications were replaced by a card-covered quarterly, the CMNS Journal, which contained both scholarly and general interest articles. Four issues a year were mailed from an 'assembly line' around the McDonald dining room table and the 'world-wide distribution centre' staff then made their way to the post office with 300 copies to be mailed from Toronto to Tehran, Athens to Australia. After that, the mailing team (same as the editorial team and the office staff) made their way to the Fish House for a well deserved post-publication dinner.

At one time Bill and Gwen even ran a mail order book business from their home. Called Marlcourt Books, it carried most publications in print for ancient numismatics and sent out many rare and out-of-print resources too.

Bill would be happy to know he is so much remembered for his dissemination of numismatic information. Whether it was the founding of societies, publications, books or seminars Bill was a giant in Canadian numismatics and he will be long remembered for that.

To read the complete article, see: William H. McDonald, 1924-2011 (

I recall Marlcourt Books. Do any of our readers have experiences to share about Bill McDonald and his numismatic career? His accomplishments were many. I'll highlight one of particular interest to bibliophiles.

The idea for a new Canadian numismatic bibliography was first conceived in the spring of 1995 in a conversation between Bill McDonald and Darryl Atchison. Subsequently, at the annual meeting of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society held at the Canadian Numismatic Association convention in Calgary, Alberta, a proposal was formally adopted to compile such a text. After some discussion, Ron Greene, Darryl Atchison, Paul Berry, Phillip Carrigan and Bill McDonald were appointed as the members of the Canadian Numismatic Bibliography Project Committee.

The massive two-volume work ably edited by Darryl Atchison was the culmination of a twelve-year effort, ultimately delivered to subscribers in 2007. It was well worth the wait. A cornerstone of any library devoted to Canadian numismatics (or North American numismatics, for that matter), the work is a virtual encyclopedia with far more information and text than a mere bibliography. We're grateful to Bill McDonald for his part in making this work a reality. -Editor

Tony Hine forwarded the following obituary. I included an image of Bill provided by Dan Gosling. Thanks, everyone!

Bill McDonald Feathers June 2006 037b MCDONALD, William Henry - 1924 - 2011 With sadness we announce the passing of Bill, peacefully and with love surrounding him on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Bill leaves behind his loving wife of 60 years Dorothy Gwen, his daughter Barbara (Mike Irwin), his grandchildren Michael Irwin (Sheryl), Stephanie (Cale Reeder), Amanda Campbell. Bill also leaves behind his sisters, Beatrice Brooks, Alice Carrigan, Maude (Roger Poirier), Dorothy (Al Markusson), Florence (Bob Larson), sister-in-law Wanda McDonald, numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great- nephews. Predeceased by brothers Norman, Gordon, Murray and Edward.

Bill served with the RCNVR, 1943-1945. He then began a career as a venture capitalist that spanned more than 50 years. During this time he was instrumental in creating a national mortgage company, and was influential in a Canadian Bank receiving its parliamentary charter. Of equal importance to Bill was his passion for the development and promotion of Canadian numismatics. He was not only a very well-respected and knowledgeable collector; he was also one of the initial founders of two of Canada's numismatic societies. His involvement in Canadian numismatics led him to be a key player in the founding of the J. Douglas Ferguson Historical Research Foundation, an educational charitable organization. Bill also ran Marlcourt Books, a company specializing in numismatics, banking and financial history.

Bill was an honourable gentleman whose gentle spirit and wonderful smile were shared with all who knew him. The family would like to express heartfelt thanks to all of the devoted caring staff of Sunnybrook Veterans Centre K2W. A private service took place on May 16, with The Rev. Canon Brad Lennon officiating. A Celebration of Bill's life will be held on June 25, 2011 from 1-5 p.m. at York Visitation Centre, 160 Beecroft Road, Toronto, ON, M2N 5Z5, 416-221-3404 or 1-888-277-2643. If friends wish, donations to the following charity would be deeply appreciated by the family: 'Veterans Comfort Fund' (please specify), Sunnybrook Foundation, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Room H332 Toronto, ON, M4N 3M5 or at

To read the complete article, see: William Henry McDonald (


Rare and Unusual Publications on American Numismatics Including

A 1910 Thomas Elder sale Confederate Half Dollar illustration
unrecorded in Adams,(only the second known;
A 1908 letter from Charles Steigerwalt to Joseph Mitchelson,
(commenting on the death of De Witt Smith;
A deluxe set of John Adams bibliographies;
(A rare photographic illustration of an 1804 silver dollar
sold in an 1884 Adolph Weyl sale

Catalogue Available at Our Web Site:
Printed Catalogues $10.00

(614) 414-0855 •

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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